Saturday, 24 August 2013

So...Ben Affleck is Batman (and other interesting casting choices)

In an interesting casting move, the much anticipated followup to this year's Man of Steel movie, tentatively titled "Batman vs. Superman" will feature Ben Affleck playing Bruce Wayne/Batman along side Henry Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman.

Yes, that Ben Affleck.

And the Internet was torn asunder....

Coming as no surprise, the blogosphere in particular and most of the Internet in general has come out against Affleck donning the cape and cowl. I haven't seen many decent reasons why. Most of them just say "he sucks" or "did you even see Daredevil?". The trouble with that is, "he sucks" isn't anything I can work with and the whole Daredevil fiasco was a decade ago, a different studio and a different property altogether.

I'm not going to lie; my initial reaction was shock. I mean, Ben Affleck? He wasn't even on the radar as far as I knew. I had read that Warner Brothers was looking for a 40+ actor to play the role as a grizzled veteran of crime fighting. Affleck is 41, so he fits that bill. And while he hasn't won any accolades for his acting, he is coming off a best director Oscar win for Argo (2012), after directing the much applauded and critically acclaimed The Town (2010) two years earlier. 

But Batman? Really??? How can this be a good thing? Clearly, this is the worst casting mistake since....

Well, hang on a second.

Movie casting is a tricky business. Even in the world of comic book movies, casting an actor to play what is essentially a cultural icon can be a daunting task. This isn't the first time someone's been cast to put on a costume and fight crime and have the general public go into a frenzy over the choice. 

Let's do a list, shall we? Here's my Top 4 comic book casting choices that were initially met with scorn but turned out to be pretty great. 

4. Hugh Jackman - Wolverine
It's hard to imagine, but when the first X-Men (2000) movie came out, unofficially ushering in the modern era of great comic book films, Hugh Jackman was a relatively unknown Aussie stage actor known for his singing and dancing. Folks who had seen him didn't think he could bring the intensity and grittiness to the anti-hero Logan that was needed to really define the character. They couldn't have been more wrong. He's now appeared as the Wolverine a record 6 times and is about to put in his 7th appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

3. Christopher Reeve - Clark Kent/Superman
Similar to Jackman, Christopher Reeve was a virtual unknown, having only appeared in a few tv soaps leading up to being cast as the most iconic superhero of all time. The short list of actors that the studio wanted for the role reads like a who's who of Hollywood at the time. Names like Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Nick Nolte and Burt Reynolds were being bandied about. When Reeve was cast, he was such an unknown that he only received 3rd billing for the film (Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman getting spots one and two, respectively)! Now, find anyone born in the late 60s or through the 70s and ask them who they most associate with the role of Superman. Every single person will tell you it's Reeve. He's my generation's Superman.

2. Michael Keaton - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Ah, Mr. Mom as Batman. To say fans were outraged by this choice is putting it mildly. The backlash from this news was absolutely staggering, especially considering it predates the Internet. "Michael Keaton? Isn't he just, like, funny and stuff? He'll make a terrible Batman!". No, dear genre fans. No he won't. Keaton's turn as the Caped Crusader is still, to this day, the favourite of a lot of fan boys and gals. His quirkiness as Wayne and his dead seriousness as the Dark Knight lent weight to the role that could have come across as campy and cartoony as Batman had so often been portrayed prior to this. You never got the sense Keaton was winking at the camera or not taking it seriously.

1. Heath Ledger - The Joker
If there's one thing I remember most clearly about the time that Ledger was announced as playing the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), it's all the comments that were made about how some Aussie pretty boy was never going to be able to fill Jack Nicholson's shoes. The single greatest comic book villain turn (one of the single best villain portrayals period, really) and a posthumous best supporting acting Oscar later and nobody can imagine anyone nailing the role of the Clown Prince of Crime the way Ledger did. It truly is a shame that we won't be able to see more of him in the future.

To sum this all up, let me just say this to the shocked and outraged fans out there wailing about Affleck being Batman. I, like you, was shocked as well. I've gotten over it and you should too. At the very least, give the man a chance to get in there and show you what he's got. If he's terrible in the role, I'll jump on the bandwagon with everyone else and write Warner Brothers a sternly worded letter. If he's great, like the actors I've listed here turned out to be great...well then I expect there will be a lot of crow served on the Internet that day.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Wolverine (2013) Review

This week, I refused to trim my sideburns, donned my favourite yellow spandex unitard and went across to the local cinema to check out The Wolverine (2013) starring Hugh Jackman and directed by James Mangold.

The story takes place some time after the events of X-Men: Last Stand (2006). Logan (Jackman) is a bearded, bedraggled man haunted by memories of his past love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), living off of booze and little else up in the mountains somewhere. He's approached by a young Japanese woman who's job it is to bring him back to Japan where a soldier from WWII that Logan saved can pay his last respects and say goodbye. When Logan gets to Japan, hijinks promptly ensue as everything is not as it seems....

Wait. Actually, everything pretty much ends up being exactly as it seems. Well, the parts that make any kind of sense, anyway.

Jackman embodies the role of Logan/Wolverine seamlessly. He's one of those rare Hollywood actors who've become so synonymous with a single role, yet has managed to branch out and put together a fairly impressive body of work. Instead of turning his nose up and outgrowing the role that made him famous, Jackman returns again and again, paying homage to the character that made him a household name.

Unfortunately, he's saddled with one of the worst films I've seen this year. And that's saying a lot.

The plot, if you could call it that, has two major points. The first focuses on the granddaughter of the tech industry giant that Logan saved back in WWII. She stands to inherit the company once her grandfather dies, much to her father's chagrin. Thugs are hired by her evil dad to take her out. Logan decides it's his job to protect her. They spend two days together and fall in love with each other. His love for this Japanese girl whom he met two days ago is enough for him to let go of the years long love he's had for Jean.

Yep. You read that right. TWO DAYS.

I have to mention something about this love story. It's awful. The reason? The complete and utter lack of chemistry between Jackman's Logan character and "Mariko" played by Tao Okamoto. The last time there was a couple on screen that had this poor of chemistry, those movies had "Clones" and "Sith" in their titles. I never, not for one single second, bought these two as a legitimate couple. I certainly didn't understand Logan letting go of Jean for a woman he's just met and only shared a single night in bed with.

The other half of the plot is so convoluted I don't even know where to begin. The aging tech giant Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) was once stationed in Nagasaki during WWII. Logan was being held as a POW there. When the A-bomb starts to drop, Logan saves Yashida for no discernible reason. Years later, Yashida is dying of cancer and wants Logan to give him his power of healing in exchange for a normal life and a proper, ordinary death. Logan refuses and the old man "dies".

The old man's oncologist, a horrible, misused villain called The Viper played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, somehow robs Logan of his healing ability but doesn't pass it along to the old man. Meanwhile, the ex-boyfriend of the granddaughter Logan is protecting/loving is a ninja (totally not making this up) and has a huge gang of ninjas (still not making this up) that start out helping Logan, then wind up hunting and hurting Logan, then end up helping Logan again.

How do you bring that all together, you ask? Spoiler alert (which you will not need if you see the film), grandfather is still alive and behind the whole thing.


The action beats can't even save this movie. From the physics defying, ridiculous train top scene to the horribly choreographed hand-to-hand fight scenes that include the often misused and completely unnecessary extreme close-up, shaky handheld camera shots to the final, climactic fight between all the protagonists and all the antagonists, the action is just dreadful. Maybe I missed a memo somewhere, but I thought this guy was supposed to be a comic book super hero.

I can't fathom why this movie is reviewing so well, but I can understand why domestic moviegoers are staying away. While Jackman is great, everybody else is just appalling. Some of the dialogue is downright laughable in it's clunkiness and corniness. There isn't a single "reveal" in this movie that will surprise you in the least. It's just bad all the way through and easily the most boring movie I've watched this year.

1 out of 5 stars.
The Wolverine (2013)
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Aug 07 2013
Rating: 1